Saturday, July 21, 2007

Tourism and Pilgrimage

It is Saturday evening, I'm in the process of making dinner, and I am also slowly working my way through Diana Butler Bass' latest book Christianity for the Rest of Us. (My wife is quickly working her way through Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, which gives you some idea of the diversity of literature in our household.) In her book, Diana Butler Bass writes about spiritual tourists verses spiritual pilgrims. As I contemplated the difference, it struck me that I am on a pilgrimage in a place awash with tourists! Most people come to Hawaii for a week or two and attempt to cram as much as possible into that time. Things like the "Top 10 Things to Do on Oahu", the Hawaii Vacation Travel Guide, or even the Oahu Visitor's Bureau website are offered for just this purpose. Their purpose is to help you to accumulate experiences of Hawaii of all kinds: cultural, gastronomic, geographic, etc... They are in sharp contrast to the Hawaii Newcomers Guide or Hawaii Moms, two publications that cater primarily to Hawaii residents, not vacationers. They are designed for people who intend to stay and live, not just visit.

Being here for almost seven weeks does not exactly make me a resident newcomer, but it certainly places me well beyond the time-frame of a typical tourist. For one thing, if I spent as much money per week as a tourist typically does, I'd be broke very soon! However, as someone on sabbatical rather than vacation, this trip helps me to contemplate what it is like to be a pilgrim, a wandering newcomer who is neither a seasoned resident living life day-to-day nor a pressed-for-time tourist trying to cram as much as possible into a short span of time.

As someone who has grown up in the church, I've always been a resident, rarely a pilgrim, and never a tourist. Experiencing what it is to be such a pilgrim may well alter how I do ministry, and certainly how I respond to those God brings to St. Alban's on their pilgrimage. Coupled with the renewed appreciation for the riches of the Anglican/Episcopal tradition gained from my time at CDI, I'm beginning to think about how the next chapter of my ordained ministry will unfold. I suspect one hallmark of my ministry will be a sense of peace and lack of hurry. After all, most pilgrims have plenty of time!

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